In the last 50 years, more than 4,000 Catholic priests in the US have faced sex abuse allegations, new reports commissioned by the Church reveal. The figure represents about four per cent of priests in America during that time. A press conference was held on Friday for the release of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Study on 'The Nature and Scope of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States 1950-2002' and the National Review Board's 'Report on the Crisis in the Catholic Church in the United States.' Bishop Wilton D Gregory, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, repeated the church's apology to all those who had suffered abuse from members of the clergy and appealed for victims to come forward. The first report detailed the scope of the "epidemic of child abuse" - 10,667 children said they had been victimised by 4,392 priests. More than 80% of the alleged victims were male and over half said they were between the age of 11 and 14 when they were assaulted. More than 10% of claims could not be substantiated. About 20% were not investigated because the accused priest was dead or inactive when the allegation was received. 40% of the abuse took place in rectories. 97% of 195 dioceses and 142 religious communities filled out surveys for the study. The second report examined the causes - based on interviews with clergy, victims, and experts on sex offenders. It blames US bishops for their failure to screen applicants to seminaries and for recycling abusive priests between parishes rather than dismissing them. "Many dysfunctional and psychosexually immature men were admitted into seminaries and later ordained in the priesthood," said Robert Bennett from the National Review Board. Strict child protection guidelines are now being implemented in dioceses across America. Dioceses across the country are facing hundreds of court cases Survivors groups have dismissed the new report's findings as an underestimate. One spokeswoman, Barbara Blaine, who represents a network of survivors of abuse said the figures had been provided in "a voluntary self-survey" by the "same bishops who had shielded the perpetrators". She called for names of alleged abusers to be released, and demanded that they be placed on a database.
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